Docudrama demonstrates impaired driving consequences to students

By Colin Willard, Advocate Staff Writer
Posted 3/27/24

VIENNA — Last week, area first responders arrived on the scene of a staged car crash on the Vienna High School campus as part of a docudrama performance to warn students about the dangers of …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Docudrama demonstrates impaired driving consequences to students


VIENNA — Last week, area first responders arrived on the scene of a staged car crash on the Vienna High School campus as part of a docudrama performance to warn students about the dangers of drunk and distracted driving.

Once the student body had gathered on grassy slopes outside of the gym, the performance began with a car full of students coming down the hill near the track to discover a grisly scene. Two cars full of fellow students had been positioned as if they had been in a head-on collision. One performer lay through the open windshield to evoke a partial ejection. Another rested on the ground beside the car. Both were coated in bloody makeup, along with the other occupants of the two cars involved in the collision. Some even displayed broken bones.

While the students who discovered the crash screamed, emergency lights flashed up the hill as first responders began to arrive. Vienna Fire Protection District volunteers arrived first and began to assess the scene. Law enforcement officers from the Vienna Police Department, Maries County Sheriff’s Office and the Missouri State Highway Patrol soon followed.

Many of the first responders attended to the wounded while the highway patrol trooper began administering tests on one of the drivers, who had stumbled out of the car. Eventually, the trooper would take away the driver in handcuffs.

The firefighters on the scene cut a door off one of the cars to rescue the people still trapped in the vehicle. Meanwhile, the sound of a helicopter cut through the air as a Phelps Air helicopter flew over the school and landed on the field. Road ambulances from Phelps Health and Maries-Osage Ambulance District also joined in the response.

The medical teams and other responders worked together to rescue the injured. They lifted people from the cars onto boards and stretchers for loading into the ambulances. Law enforcement searched the cars for evidence of how the crash might have occurred and found empty alcohol containers. A grieving parent watched the scene while the first responders consoled her.

Not all of the participants were fortunate enough to receive medical attention. Responders covered the people ejected from the cars with sheets. Eventually, Maries County Deputy Coroner Amanda Sandbothe helped load them into body bags.

In stages, the emergency teams began to leave the scene with patients in tow. The helicopter flew away. The ambulances dispersed. Vienna High School Principal Tim Metcalf gathered the watching students into a closer group so Maries County Chief Deputy Scott John could address them about what they had just witnessed.

John began by recognizing the students involved in the school’s Students Against Drunk Driving organization for their participation in the docudrama. He said he had told the students to act like it was real and think about if their friends had been the ones in the car. He urged the students to be proactive when their friends are drinking and do whatever it takes to prevent them from drinking and driving. Following behind someone is not going to stop them from driving erratically. If necessary, they should take their friends’ keys.

Another point John made was that because the crash was a case of driving while intoxicated causing a fatality, the driver would go to jail for vehicular manslaughter. The crash will follow not only the driver’s insurance and criminal record but also his conscience. He added that a death by drunk driving is “the most preventable death there is.”

John told the students that he would answer any questions they might have about the process of how the first responders worked the scene.

After John spoke, Caitlin Jones, the Meramec Regional Planning Commission’s (MRPC) Arrive Alive manager, addressed the students. Jones and MRPC Arrive Alive Docudrama Coordinator Mag Roberts organized the performance through a federal highway grant. Jones said that though not all the students took the demonstration seriously, she hoped that they would understand the seriousness of a real situation because it could happen to anyone whether or not they were drinking. She emphasized the importance of encouraging friends to not drink and drive, pay full attention when driving and wear seat belts at all times. Letting friends make bad decisions can leave a person with just as guilty a conscience if something happens because of those bad decisions.

Metcalf said a couple of days after the performance that he had heard feedback from students about the impact of the demonstration.

“I’ve heard conversations in the halls and before school about how interesting it was to see exactly what happens when an accident occurs,” he said. “Students felt that it was very real. I just hope that it deters them from making a poor choice while in the moment.”